Mitch Daniels says book he didn't want in Indiana classrooms was fraud, misstated American history

Educators uneasy over incident three years ago

INDIANAPOLIS - Purdue President and former Governor Mitch Daniels was catching heat from educators over his alleged attempt to censor a history book.

But Daniels insists the incident, which came to light through emails obtained by the Associated Press, was no big deal.

Daniels said it was just a brief exchange of emails with subordinates three years ago in which he tried to determine if a history book was being used in Indiana public schools.

When he found it wasn't, he dropped the issue.

But educators are concerned, especially since he is now running a major university.

The book, written in 1980, is "A People's History of the United States."

The book was written by Howard Zinn, a historian and social activist who died 3 years ago.

It focuses on the struggles of women, African-Americans and workers for equal treatment.

Daniels said it misstates American history on every page.

But educators like history professor Michael Snodgrass with Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis dispute that.

"I don't think it qualifies as anti-American,” Snodgrass said. “In fact, to the contrary, I think it's very American in its attempts to essentially democratize history by bringing peoples in whose voices had previously not been heard."

Daniels said liberals have also criticized Zinn's work.

He said his only concern was that Indiana kids not be force-fed a false version of American history.

"He's been condemned for a long, long time by people across the spectrum,” said Daniels. “And no one needs to take it from me. He was an intellectual fraud and a purposeful falsifier of history in a way that constantly denigrated, you know, American tradition and American principles."

Snodgrass said Zinn has long been a bogeyman to conservative groups and he understands why Zinn's approach would bother people like Daniels.

But he finds Daniels' criticism troubling.

"I find it particularly troubling his use of the term anti-American to refer to a professor and a scholar who would have himself considered himself very American."

Daniels said he wasn't attacking the academic freedom of professors and was never concerned about the book being used at the college level.

Although the book is not used in Indiana public schools, Snodgrass said it has had an impact here because so many Indiana teachers read it in college and have been influenced by it.

Follow Norman Cox on Twitter: @normancox6

Print this article Back to Top